How do you convince the squishy wizard to stand in the back?


Advice


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Suppose you've got new players. Suppose they're a bit on the young side, and are desperate to charge into combat, classes and consequences be damned. Aside from "let them die," how do you help them discover the concept of tactics and marching order?

Comic related.


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From an educational perspective, the best way to teach is to allow for exploration of concept and support growth through questioning. These things go hand in hand. You asked about marching order; how have you supported your young/new players in gaining an understanding of what's tactically good?

Let's say your players are about to walk into an Orc warren, ready to fight. You could ask "Who's in the front?" And then fire arrows right away. What did your players learn? What did you guide them to think about? If you pause a second and say "What's good about the Champion going up front? What's bad about it?" your players might consider the value of the "tank" going in front. "Are there other players who can go in front? What could be a different approach to entering the cave?" Maybe they come up with a Stealth-y character going in first, because they can scout ahead.

Just because there's only one physical space to explore doesn't mean that there's only one chance to think about the encounter. Run the first encounter through, then reflect on it. "What went right in that fight? What went wrong? What else could have happened? What other things could we have done?"

The key is to always ask questions that are open ended and have answers that would need justifications. Yes/No questions are awful, because they don't need much thought. "Was it good that the Wizard took four arrows to the face?" Nope, it wasn't; but I learned nothing about how to prevent that or what to do instead. The same is true of objectively and definitely answered questions. "Who took four arrows to the face?" The Wizard, but why are we asking that? Ask things that can spark debate, discussion, and further exploration. Maybe you could play back the whole encounter multiple times, using different strategies. "[Not-the-Wizard] suggested that we let the Rogue use Stealth to scout ahead, let's play that out and we can see how it runs differently!" If you go that route, let players try to predict how it might play out differently and then see if their predictions were right afterward.

Just remember throughout, that their knowledge and understanding of battle tactics needs to be built by them in their own terms. Forcing ideas onto them, or arguing with them over what is good and bad, isn't going to get them there. You certainly have learned an understanding of these concepts, but transferring that to them is mostly impossible. The best you can do is creating an area where they have materials to work with (characters, maps, encounters, dice) and a framework to discuss their experimentation.


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Having played RPGs with a fair number of kids, assuming that you are going to be able to teach them specific lessons in specific ways is a bit of a gamble. Letting them experience the consequences of their actions without making it feel like you are punishing them for their actions is pretty critical.
PF2 death and dying rules can easily be tweaked by not introducing the wounded mechanic so that younger players can have a little bit more of the pop corn experience which will not have their characters dying, but will show them that rushing in can lead to their character getting knocked out and having to wait for someone to come and heal them.


Suppose you have old players, ones who don't realize that 30' distance is safe no longer, but they keep edging up toward the front.

Just kidding (though it's true!).
I think the playtest's severity beat that out of them.

Much of what others have said, plus:

One thing I used to do with new players was a Girallon battle.
We'd each play one, roll initiative, and fight.
If they won initiative, they'd inevitably run up to mine and get mangled because I had a full attack w/ rend. If I won, I delayed. Same outcome.

I haven't created a default example for PF2 yet, but if you start w/ some easier battles it might help the young squishies realize how squishy they are before getting pulped.
The downside is it can be disheartening to discover your hero is squishy. You may want to throw in some creatures with weaknesses to their Cantrips or resistance to weapons so they can see they have a distinct role.
Or of course cluster some dumb enemies if the hero has an AoE.

If they're math savvy, maybe have a sample battle where numbers are explicit, showing the risk vs. reward before every roll.

Good luck with this.
Cheers


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Unicore wrote:
Letting them experience the consequences of their actions without making it feel like you are punishing them for their actions is pretty critical.

Seems like natural consequences is the ideal. It's not didactic, but a natural extension of the system at that point.


DRD1812 wrote:

Suppose you've got new players. Suppose they're a bit on the young side, and are desperate to charge into combat, classes and consequences be damned. Aside from "let them die," how do you help them discover the concept of tactics and marching order?

Comic related.

The Anime Log Horizon episodes 12-15 (season 1) deal with a party of novice adventurers working their way through this very issue.


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Gonna second asking leading questions. Which players are the ones trying to be out of position? Is the backline wizard the one charging forward, or is the Fighter being overly cautious and staying in the back even though they're using a great a big sword they need to close the gap to use?

If the Fighter isn't really cognizant of their role as goalie, when it's their turn you might say, "The orc keeps glancing at your wizard, he's clearly going to attack them next. Are you going to let them do that?" And assuming the Orc survives the inevitable Fighter mauling, you could have them do exactly what you said they'd do, run towards the Wizard - a reminder about Attacks of Opportunity and reactions and your Fighter may notice they get to deal extra damage if they stand in the way of where enemies want to go, which would eventually lead them to understand that they can protect party members so long they've got a reaction ready.

For the Wizard, damage usually helps, but players might not be understanding why they're taking so much damage. If the martials are at least arguing to go in front, there's at least meatshields in between the ranged caster and the presumably mostly melee monsters. Make sure they're cognizant of the range of their spells - most are at least 30 feet and many are functionally "if you can see them on the battle mat, you can hit them."

In both cases, having enemies react to your party even incidentally doing something tactically relevant can help get an idea. If your Wizard starts out far away from enemies, having one spend all three actions just trying to get near the Wizard while getting frustrated and winded might communicate that enemies can't hit you if they have to spend all their actions running to get to you. Sapient enemies yelling to each other what your party is perhaps inadvertently doing can also communicate how well they're doing. "S##@, we can't kill their wizard, we can't get past their knight!" lets the players know their enemies are panicking because of a thing they did. It's also a reward in itself to have characters in the world react to the tactical prowess of your players - getting the enemy to freak out makes you feel like a badass.

You can also have much weaker enemies (like, say, goblins) use these tactics while verbally coordinating what they're doing. "Archers, get behind the gate and shoot through it!" Seeing a tactic be used against them can help players understand why something's frustratingly good - they can't put a sword into the archers until the gate is back up or destroyed, and while they didn't die they did have a lot of trouble with what they knew were really weak enemies. Having similar gates, but on the players' end of the map, on a later floor gives them an opportunity to try that out for themselves and frustrate their enemies right back.

I would say that PF2 has enough going on with its combat that I wouldn't write off just trying to explain some basic ideas in between sessions. "You generally won't hit with your third strike in a turn because of the -10 MAP, it's better to find something else to do like move," is one that even veteran players don't always wrap their head around. I would wait until they at least have the very basics down, but once they understand some tactical basics I'd say it's OK to help them learn some of the PF2-specific quirks.


All of em have this problem?

Maybe, only talking about game mechanics, it's only a matter of preference.

A player who chose to play a wizard could find himself liking more a barbarian ( if he only want to kill ) or a guardian ( if he want to rush forward and support his party ).

Or eventually, a fighter ( if he want's a solid mix of attack and defense, while maintaining the best attack in the game ).

If they are at the beginning of their adventure, and maybe the first step into RPG ( or simply into this system ), I would consider the possibility of what we called "Cocoon of Evolution" when we was fourteen ( a funny way to explain a change of character ).

However, about learning how to, did you consider sharing with them some data about monster with about their level? To let em "realize" what are their odds if they play a specific AC class.

Also I would invest time explaining all the possible actions and traits ( give them a sheet or a link with all the actions a player can do, and the traits a player will have to deal with. Stuff like "press" and "flourish" will be useful ( not to say mandatory ) by even by lvl 2.


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Many years ago, I saw an unintended comparison of the playstyles.

When I played my one and only D&D 4th Edition character, the DM at the Family Game Store sent us on a mission that came with its own playmat. We were supposed to clear goblins out of a pair of caves with a waterfall between them. As we approached, we sent out two stealthy scouts ahead to peek into one cave. Suddenly, a stream of goblins erupted from a hidden cave behind the waterfall. The two martial charactes placed themselves between the goblins and the two spellcasters. Combat was orderly and effective. Each player had several years of experience in D&D.

A year later, while at the game store, I saw the same DM with the same playmat out. I stopped to watch the game. This time, three martial characters ran at full speed to the nearest cave, leaving three spellcasters behind. The goblins ran out from under the waterfall and surrounded the spellcasters. The spellcasters took a major beating from the goblins while the martials remained inside the cave. Combat was a mess. I didn't know the players, but they played like newbies.

In the games I run, the players master teamwork. A new player either learns from the example of the teamwork experts or repeats his or her clueless tactics predictably enough that the teamwork experts incorporate them into their tactics. They control the battlefield like a juggler controls spinning plates. Sometimes that means they protect the squishies and sometimes they invent new tactics based on individual strengths.

For example, in my Iron Gods campaign, the party members were a fighter, gunslinger, magus (fighter/wizard hybrid), skald (bard/barbarian hybrid), and bloodrager (barbarian/sorcerer hybrid). No-one was squishy. And Iron Gods has a lot of ranged attacks from robots with lasers or Technic League wizards. The party developed a mobile skirmishing style rather than the typical frontline and backline style.

For example, in one battle against several gearsman robots with hardness 10 (a lot like DR 10/adamantine, but it resists energy too), the magus went nova with high-damage attacks while protected by a Mirror Image spell. Kill a gearsman, step forward, kill the next gearsman, step forward, repeat. In four rounds of the gearsmen targetting him, he lost most of his images and took 3/4 of his hit points in damage. So the bloodrager stepped between him and the two remaining gearsmen, the skald healed him, and the magus recast his Mirror Image, though he didn't need to because the rest of the party mopped up the last of the gearsmen. The fluidity of the team was a joy to watch, so I threw lots of gearsmen at them :-P.


DRD1812 wrote:

Suppose you've got new players. Suppose they're a bit on the young side, and are desperate to charge into combat, classes and consequences be damned. Aside from "let them die," how do you help them discover the concept of tactics and marching order?

Comic related.

I guess you could define "a bit on the young side". We talking high schoolers or 7-10 yr olds? Somewhere in between?

Usually, as a DM, I'd warn them, and then let them decide. If charging in with a squishy wizard gets em killed...well, maybe after a couple of examples of what Not To Do, the problem sorts itself out with more circumspect play. Evolution in action, basically. For young players, though, I'd probably knock em out, make em lose their stuff, but always leave that chance for them to recover. But, if they don't start to learn, well, gloves are off and welcome to Darwinism, my little friends...


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

It isn't my job to play their characters, teach them about tactics or any of that. Let them do what they want to do.

Dark Archive

Maybe some traps could make the case for letting someone better able to absorb the damage / spot and disable the traps take the lead when going down a corridor or opening a door.

The best sorts of traps for this specific task might be immobolizing traps that don't necessarily do all the damage, but snare or bind a limb, or drop a hooked net, or tanglefoot bag, on the person in front, to keep them out of the current combat.

Miss a few fights because you were in the net / tanglefoot bag / bear trap (which the tank might have been strong enough to tear out of, and the rogue might have spotted and / or avoided), and it might sink in that it might be better to let the other people do their jobs.

Just letting them suck up the first volley of crossbow bolts or whatever is also an option, if you want to go harder. Oh look, they set up a ballista to fire at the first person through the door! Also, glyph of warding <BOOM>! Perhaps your *next* character will not take that position...


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
DRD1812 wrote:
Aside from "let them die," how do you help them discover the concept of tactics and marching order?

Failure is an integral part of learning.


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Fumarole wrote:
DRD1812 wrote:
Aside from "let them die," how do you help them discover the concept of tactics and marching order?
Failure is an integral part of learning.

At the same time, if they ask for advice, I'll say: well, here's three or four things you could do this turn, do any of them sound like something your character wants to do?

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Fumarole wrote:
DRD1812 wrote:
Aside from "let them die," how do you help them discover the concept of tactics and marching order?
Failure is an integral part of learning.

But it is not the only one. Only the most frustrating one and one that could turn a new player away from the game.

Especially if it goes to PC dying after a few actions.

"How was that new game ?

I had no prior experience so I did a rookie mistake that ended up in my character dead after half an hour of play, while the experienced players went on having fun for the remaining 4 hours.

Will you play it again ?

Hmmm, let me think. "


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The Raven Black wrote:

But it is not the only one. Only the most frustrating one and one that could turn a new player away from the game.

Especially if it goes to PC dying after a few actions.

"How was that new game ?

I had no prior experience so I did a rookie mistake that ended up in my character dead after half an hour of play, while the experienced players went on having fun for the remaining 4 hours.

Will you play it again ?

Hmmm, let me think. "

While I don't disagree with you, making someone sit on the sidelines for four hours doing nothing seems like the real problem in this specific example.


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In my experience, players almost never correctly interpret subtle hints or changes to encounters that are intended to teach them to behave differently.

For the example of placing incapacitating traps;

The intended lesson: If you run ahead as a squishy wizard, you are likely to come to harm

The many possible others lessons that the player might take away instead:
Running ahead is fine, as traps only incapacitate me.
Running ahead is fine, I've only been held in place or incapacitated, but have survived the encounters.
When I run ahead, fun and interesting things happen, such as finding traps.
I need to save up my gold so I can buy items that improve my perception.
I need to multiclass into rogue to help me deal with traps.
I need to prepare spells that help me find traps every day.
Wizards suck as they keep getting hit by traps, I need to make a new character.

I would honestly not change anything at all about encounter design. The goals of encounter design should stay focused on being a fun and challenging encounter, and time shouldn't be wasted on trying to passive aggressively teach object lessons, when it is far more efficient to just talk to the player, and if they don't listen, let the natural consequences of their actions play out (as the natural consequences are what makes the game feel like it has actual stakes).

The new player has hero points and presumably has party members with healing magic, so the risk of having to sit out most of the game is actually pretty well attenuated.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What TT said. "Teaching players by challenging them" doesn't work.


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The Raven Black wrote:
Fumarole wrote:
DRD1812 wrote:
Aside from "let them die," how do you help them discover the concept of tactics and marching order?
Failure is an integral part of learning.

But it is not the only one. Only the most frustrating one and one that could turn a new player away from the game.

Especially if it goes to PC dying after a few actions.

"How was that new game ?

I had no prior experience so I did a rookie mistake that ended up in my character dead after half an hour of play, while the experienced players went on having fun for the remaining 4 hours.

Will you play it again ?

Hmmm, let me think. "

Totally agree with this. IMO, a good GM would let a pre-teen player get near death but not dead for bad tactics. They'd miss out on a lot of the combat the first couple fights and figure out better ways to stay in the fun combat with just a few suggestions along the way.


Tender Tendrils wrote:
In my experience, players almost never correctly interpret subtle hints or changes to encounters that are intended to teach them to behave differently.
Gorbacz wrote:
What TT said. "Teaching players by challenging them" doesn't work.

I knew my players were atypical. This is more evidence. They do listen to subtle hints.

I like to give them warning encounters that teach them tactics that will be important later. Iron Gods had some nice built-in warning encounters. Before the party ran into robots with lasers in the 3rd module, they ran into low-level gunslingers in Scrapwall in the 2nd module. Gunslingers are supposed to be rare outside of Alkenstar, but the writer decided to put some in Numeria. The fight against gunslingers with their gunpowder pistols would teach the party tactics vital later against technological enemies with laser pistols--if they took the hint. And my players took the hint.

However, all three of my game groups, with mostly different players, have listened to my hints. The common factor among players is my wife, who can recognize a subtle hint when I give one. Thus, just one person is necessary to give a party the ability to follow subtle hints.

I read the above to my wife, who then teased me that just because she recognizes my subtle hints, her character will not necessarily behave in a way that I expect. She loves derailing the Paizo adventure paths by roleplaying more than the module writer expected. For example, in the 2nd module, they entered the shantytown of Scrapwall not by looking strong, but by using false names and pretending to be refugees. They wanted to live in that super-dungeon and learn its secrets from the subtle hints of their new neighbors. They became well-known in Scrapwall not by beating up gangs for information, but by the skald holding a public concert.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Make sure you really want to do this. Then let them know that standing back is usually a good idea. Then if they do not move to the back smack them, but make sure they have a hero point. Explain why they got smacked. Do not be subtle about it.

Of course that might not actually work because wizards can actually have a decent AC in this game and can have fairly decent hit points, particularly at first level. I mean a human wizard might have 15 hit points compared to a human rogue's 17 hit points and the rogue is expected to be part of the melee scrum.

It's also very possible depending on the fight that if they stand to far back additional enemies might engage them with no meaningful way for the front line to peel the enemies off them. This is not always the optimal tactic.

Shadow Lodge

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This is a new game, Pf1 tactics don't apply like they used to. In Pf2, standing in the back doesn't matter as much. PCs and monsters can mostly just walk past each other with impunity. Spells in Pf2 are also mostly in the 30ft or less range so you have to be within striking distance to do stuff. Martials are also way more dangerous than spellcasters and should be higher priority targets for intelligent enemies. How do you teach GMs to take tactical advantage of the new system's mobility instead of just blindly attacking whatever happens to be in the front?


At the end of the day where they stand won't matter much since intelligent ranged enemies will usually go for the caster. Using cover is more important for a caster when archers, etc are in the mix.


Knock him out and take him prisoner.

Much better than killing him. And then you get to have a daring rescue/escape.

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